Sunday, August 24, 2008

The two Acanthus

A friend gave me a Flame Acanthus earlier this year thinking I would like it as I use a lot of natives in my gardens. I thanked her and said yes I would, not mentioning I already had a huge one and had to pull up dozens of volunteers every year. It was a good size and I decided to plant it right next to the other. I thought that spot needed more bush and two would work just fine.

The original bush bloomed right on time, drawing hummers by the score. The second, nary a bloom. I thought it might be a dud, and yes I believe in dud plants as I've had several. Well low and behold the other started to bloom just as the first was beginning to fade. The blooms also seemed to be an intense red instead of the orange color of the original and the petals were shorter and fuller as well. I certainly didn't see anything wrong with this, more blooms over a longer period, great. The hummers certainly didn't mind as they are still working it over. After their initial flush of blooms they have both bloomed sporadically all summer long, not bothered by the heat in the least. Now that's a good plant for Texas.

The original plant is on the right, orange and spindly blooms and the new one is on the left. My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know why the difference. I went to Mitch Mitchlamore at Texas Natives. He is mainly into native trees but he knows a lot about most native plants. He thinks the orange one is actually the true native and the other has been changed for nurseries to sell as the color is more vibrant.

I dug the original on a friend's ranch in the far southwestern edge of the hill country so I know it is a true native. Now Mitch wants all the volunteers as he has been unable to find a supplier. As any true gardener would I'm potting them for him as fast as I find them.

And with that another garden mystery has been solved-I think.


Anonymous said...

This post solves a mystery for me too. I have an older flame acanthus that is orange and a brand-new one that is red. I wondered why the one I purchased this year was different.

I actually prefer the new, redder color.

Anonymous said...

I have both red and orange ones also, but I just thought the color variation was normal. Thanks for researching this.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Bob - mine is the orange one...a passalong from Pam.

Just a thought: Since one blooms later maybe its selection was not only for the eyes of humans but to time its bloom for hummingbird migrations?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Unknown said...

Very cool. I have never bought an acanthus because I wasn't crazy about the orange color but I do like the newer, red one. So maybe I'll pick up one to plant in the fall.